On Aug. 5, Lollapalooza’s third day, Frayne Vibez ran out on the BACARDÍ Stage and sang to a crowd in the pouring rain.
From Loyola to Lollapalooza: Frayne Vibez
On Aug. 5, Lollapalooza’s third day, Frayne Vibez ran out on the BACARDÍ Stage and sang to a crowd in the pouring rain. One summer before on May 12, 2022, Frayne Lewis Jr. walked the stage in Gentile Arena and graduated from Loyola.
Lewis Jr. earned a finance degree from the university’s Quinlan School of Business, but crunching numbers was never his dream.
“I felt like music was the only thing I really could go to,” Lewis Jr. said. “I felt very judged for being myself, so in high school I went to music, and it was like therapy for me.”
While Lewis Jr. only began making beats his sophomore year of high school, music has been in his family for generations.
His grandfather was jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis who, aside from his own successful solo career, regularly worked with members from Earth, Wind & Fire. The three-time Grammy winner died Sept. 12 at 87 years old.
“He instilled in me that it’s all about the music and to forget about any type of outside forces or what people say,” Lewis Jr. said. “Just leave it all to the music because that’s what people want to hear.”
A similar impression was left on Lewis Jr.’s father Frayne Lewis Sr., who helped produce many of Ramsey Lewis’ solo albums.
Through James Memorial Christian Academy in Maywood, Lewis Sr. began to mentor a young musician who played saxophone, drums and keys in the church’s band. This was well before this musician became the Grammy-nominated producer Kosine.
“The most important thing you can do as an artist or a musician is learn from what’s around you but then cultivate your own path,” Lewis Sr. said.
And his son did just that.
Carrying lessons from his father and grandfather to college, Lewis Jr. began to take music seriously halfway through his time at Loyola. His ambition was complimented by the mentorship of producer Kosine — also a former Columbia College Chicago professor — who took Lewis Jr. under his wing.
Kosine said he was eager to work with Lewis Jr. because of the enthusiasm and trust he felt between them.
“I know he comes from great stock,” Kosine said. “There’s a rapport and a trust and a brotherhood that’s invaluable.”
Petar Lumovic, also a 2022 Loyola graduate, met Lewis Jr. during the virtual semesters of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the two friends were both finance majors, Lumovic said they had “every class together.”
Once in person, Lumovic said he stayed in Chicago while Lewis Jr. flew to Los Angeles to work with Kosine every other weekend.
“It was sort of like a double-life thing,” Lewis Jr. said. “It was like, ‘Damn I’m out here in LA having fun,’ and then, ‘Aw man, I gotta go back to school. Wait, did I do that paper? OK, I think I did. Oh, I gotta go on LOCUS and see what I missed.’”
One of these classes was Exploring Poetry with Dr. Michael Meinhardt, which Lewis Jr. cites as having helped his songwriting.
Meinhardt, who has been teaching at Loyola for 16 years, said there are obvious “familial lines” between poetry and music and Lewis Jr. would go “above and beyond,” staying after class to delve deeper into those connections.
“He loved that concept that there’s an interwoven nature to the things that humans create,” Meinhardt said.
When planning his set for Lollapalooza, Kosine said he knew he’d have to show every side of his artistry for his first Lollapalooza performance.
“Kosine the artist is still a producer, too, so it only makes sense to show you, in a Kosine set, what I’ve done,” Kosine said about himself. “Then show you the future and show you what’s coming down the pipeline.”
Their combined Lollapalooza set opened the Lollapalooza’s Saturday at 11:50 a.m. with Kosine playing and rapping over songs like Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and “Birthday Cake” by Rihanna — both of which he produced — and the multi-platinum “Eenie Meenie” by Sean Kingston and Justin Bieber, which he co-wrote.
He then brought out “the future” — Lewis Jr., or Frayne Vibez — whose energy enlivened the poncho-clad crowd of the early afternoon.
“This song is very near and dear to me,” Lewis Jr. said when introducing his cover of Joji’s “TEST DRIVE.” “This helped me get through college.”
He also played “Tell Me,” which Lewis Jr. said was the first song he and Kosine worked on together.
“Tell me what you want / I swear I’ll give you all I got right now, if you / Tell me what you need / That’s all I’m asking ‘cause I’m looking for somebody like you,” he sang.
The R&B influence of Kosine’s production was inherently present behind Lewis Jr.’s melodic, falsetto vocals during their early set.
Lumovic stood proudly at the barricade, supporting his friend while braving the rain at his third Lollapalooza. Prior to the set, Lumovic had only seen Lewis Jr. perform at small gatherings with family and friends — nothing like Lollapalooza, Lumovic said.
“I feel like people think artists are stereotypically really cocky or confident, and Frayne is confident but so humble,” Lumovic said.
His manager — or, affectionately, “dadager” — Lewis Sr. said he was proud seeing his son rise to the occasion after putting himself in “the most difficult position a student could put himself in.”
“I told him that I always wanted him to go to college and get his degree, but you don’t want somebody to do things on your terms,” Lewis Sr. said. “You want to live life to the fullest on your terms, as a musician, as a young man. I think that’s what he did and what he accomplished.”
As he began to pursue his passion and use music as an emotional outlet, Lewis Jr. said he finally stopped isolating himself during his junior year at Loyola, which allowed him to meet a whole support group of friends.
“When you’re trying to go for your dreams, you gotta grind, you gotta be determined, you just gotta push through,” Lewis Jr. said. “Just do not be afraid to be yourself, put yourself out there, and you’ll find people that are like you.”
Featured image by Austin Hojdar / The Phoenix